House Votes to Block Expanded FCC Limits

WASHINGTON, D.C. The U.S. House of Representa-
tives on Wednesday voted to restore national TV ownership limits that federal regulators moved to relax last month.

The 400-to-21 vote in the Republican-dominated chamber represented a rebuke of the Bush administration and the Federal Communications Commission, which on a party-line vote on June 2 decided to relax major media ownership limits.

The House voted for a spending bill that included a measure to return to 35 percent the proportion of TV households that can be reached by stations owned by one company. The FCC under chairman Michael Powell had decided to raise that figure to 45 percent.

The legislation still needs approval from the Senate, where a return to the 35-percent limit already has attracted bipartisan support.

If the measure clears Congress, it faces uncertain prospects. The White House has said that advisors there would recommend that President Bush veto legislation that reverses the FCC decision.

Supporters of the 35-percent limit said it would prevent large national TV networks from growing larger and imposing programming without regard to local wishes. The restored limit, said Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.), represents “an effort to protect local values, to protect diverse voices.”

Powell issued a statement on Wednesday as the House was preparing to vote: “We are confident in our decision,” he said. “We created enforceable rules that reflect the realities of today’s media marketplace.”